Bantams fighting fit for Cup exploits – Parkinson
The Bantams are the only club outside the Premier League to still be competing on four fronts this season following the midweek Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win at Port Vale.
Such has been City’s success, tomorrow’s visit of Torquay United will be their 30th game of the campaign – the highest tally of all 92 clubs in the top four divisions of English football.
With the City squad not being the deepest and dependable defender Luke Oliver already out for the season, the resources at Parkinson’s disposal are being stretched to the limit.
With seven more fixtures scheduled before the end of the year, there appears little chance of respite any time soon. Despite that, the Bradford manager is adamant that there will be no chance of fatigue setting in.
He said: “I am not concerned about it (tiredness). In fact, I don’t want to talk about it because when managers start talking about players being tired then it can put that into their minds.
“I don’t have any concerns about us. I feel we are an extremely fit team and coping well.”
Parkinson is no stranger to having to deal with a packed schedule with his Colchester United side once having played 61 times.
In that epic 2003-04 campaign, the U’s battled through to the regional final of the Football League Trophy (then known as the LDV Vans Cup), the FA Cup fifth round and the second stage of the League Cup.
As impressive as the Essex side were, however, in knockout football, they went on to finish 11th in League One despite occupying a play-off position at Christmas.
Parkinson, though, does not believe that will be a problem for Bradford, who as it stands are in line to play a minimum 58 games this term.
The Bantams manager said: “The planning is vital. Three players – (James) Meredith, (Rory) McArdle and (Will) Atkinson – didn’t even travel on Tuesday (to Vale Park) because they have played more minutes than anyone else in the squad.
“We felt those three needed a break so we left them out to try and keep them fresh. It was the same with Stephen Darby, who I was always only going to give an hour on the pitch. In my mind, whatever the score had been, he was going to come off.
“I didn’t want him playing 90 minutes, especially as he has had a few niggles. You can’t always get the planning perfect but you have to try and get it to the best of your ability.
“At Colchester, my three seasons all brought good cup runs so we had to play a lot of games. But what has added to it this season is that we have had more midweek league games.
“I don’t think anyone on the staff can remember playing quite so many games by this stage of a season. But we are enjoying it. The games are coming thick and fast, and all bringing different problems.”
Should City continue to progress in the Cups or reach the play-offs then chances are they will become the busiest Yorkshire side of recent times.
In 2009-10, Leeds United played 60 times en route to clinching automatic promotion from League One while Sheffield United’s run to the semi-finals of the League and FA Cups in 2002-03 saw Neil Warnock’s men face a gruelling 61-match schedule.
Parkinson added: “We have brought loan players in to boost things along the way. Then, there are lads like Gary Jones who have had five weeks out injured. Kyel Reid will soon be back after 10 weeks and Zavon (Hines) after three. So, a lot have had breaks and will be fine when they come back.
“And if we aren’t fine, then we have to add to the squad in the loan market, as we have done in this window. It is all about managing the squad.
“It is a similar scenario to Colchester in that we are a small squad who pulls together. That is what we have done and these lads are a pleasure to deal with.”
City host Torquay, who are two places and a point behind in the League Two table, tomorrow buoyed by a run that has brought just one defeat in the last 10 league and cup outings.
Parkinson added: “Confidence is high and there is a lot of belief running through the squad. Tuesday was pleasing because, once again, we showed that whoever comes into the side is capable of taking that chance.
“Look at Jon McLaughlin at Port Vale, I thought he was outstanding. The back four had two young centre-halves and played really well. That is great for us going into what will be another busy period.
“I always enjoy Christmas, as it is a busy time. I had one year when I was out of work at this time and that was not good.
“When you have been used to being involved since 16 in football at Christmas, you get used to it. There is a special buzz around fixtures at that period of the year.
“So, to not be involved was hard. What I have said to the players is, ‘Let’s enjoy this December and being part of a good side’. The players have taken that on board and we have started the month well.”
Bradford’s packed December schedule includes five league outings plus Tuesday’s Capital One Cup glamour quarter-final tie at home to Arsenal and an FA Cup second-round replay at Brentford a week later.
With 23,500 tickets having been sold for the clash with the Gunners, clearly the prospect of taking on a leading Premier League club has captured the imagination of the Bradford sporting public.
Parkinson, a former scout for the London club, admits the tie will be a big event for City but is adamant that his players are fully focused on Torquay.
He said: “The Arsenal game hasn’t been mentioned at all. That won’t change until Monday. We have a game in Torquay, which to me is bigger than Arsenal. We have to keep our focus on that.
“The players have been very good, in that respect. Our results show that they have been concentrating fully and not been distracted in any way by the prospect of facing Arsenal.
“Then, once Torquay is out of the way, we can enjoy the extra exposure that will be coming our way next week. The thing we want is to go into the Arsenal game on the back of another win. That would be great.”